Sprinting at North Weald - March 19, 2005  
by Tony Beesley  

I guess most of you heard that sprinting at North Weald almost came to a close in 2006 after God knows how many years and hundreds of events. The council had decided that there was more money to be made having a Sunday market in a hanger (As well as the Saturday open air one) and needed the sprint paddock area for a car park. They gave about 2 months notice after all the sprint dates had been worked out! However, after some sterling effort by the clubs involved a compromise was reached and a new paddock area was agreed down the far northern end of the airfield together with a new albeit shorter circuit. Mind you, I have done two events at the new location and at both there wasn’t a Sunday market and our old paddock was empty!

The first event at the revised location took place on the 19th March by B19 with a maximum entry of some 120 with surprisingly few bugs in the day’s proceedings. The weather was sunny although cold, but then its always cold at North Weald! The circuit used most of the old layout starting the other side of the ‘roundabout’ with the only bit missing being the straight from the old start. Using the full old circuit FTD was around 68secs whereas this new circuit is around 50secs, which is a pity it is so short but still long enough to make the day worthwhile.

Although I entered my JEDI single-seater at this event it mysteriously broke a steering arm all by itself whilst parked stationary in the paddock and I was spectating (!) So I loaded it back up and withdrew, that was until son Paul offered a shared drive in his Lotus Elise. Now you may think, “How does that fat sod Beesley get into that JEDI single seater?”. Well – have you tried a Lotus Elise with the hood up? I could get in easy enough – well fell in to be precise, but getting out is almost impossible and I had to result in literally rolling out onto my hands and knees! It just isn’t designed for old grey haired fat blokes! Mind you it really is a great car to drive and I had terrific fun winding up son Paul who really had to try hard to keep in front of me in his own car – but just 4 hundreds of a second in the end. Must have been the weight penalty I was carrying. Great fun. We were in the 57secs bracket and FTD that day was by Tony Staines in his single-seater at just over 50secs.

I still needed to try the JEDI out after its winter rebuild and with the steering arm repaired for £30 with some excellent welding by Chris Applebee (as apposed to £350 for a new upright from JEDI!) I entered the B19 event also at North Weald on the 9th April. It was a SELOC event although B19 members were also invited, so the entry list was 80% Lotuses, including son Paul’s. It was a great day weather-wise, lovely and sunny and perfect for sprinting and a good thrash. B19 had sorted out a few areas from their first event and it ran like clockwork with us all getting 5 runs including practice. The JEDI ran really well and not having much else in its class was well ahead of any opposition. That was until the 4th run when I lost drive going flat to the finish and rattled the lever around trying to find a gear. It still went across the line at a fair rate of knots to give me a time but when I rolled to a halt I found a drive shaft had sheared. It uses early Mini CV joints on the outer and the nearside one had snapped the shaft inside the hub. When the breakdown vehicle turned up to tow me back to the paddock it was being driven by none other than Andy Porter who I used to Autocross against with his brother Gary in the 70’s. Grinning from ear-to-ear he said, “See you’re gonna be behind me again Beesley!” My reply had 2 ‘L’s’ in it! Luckily I carry spare shafts and 30 mins later it was driveable again so I managed my last run and clocked a 49.6sec run to record FTD. Son Paul won his class in his Elise so it was a good day all round in the end.

If you’ve not done a sprint at North Weald I can honestly recommend it as a relatively cheap day out, just up the road, nice and casual, plenty of mates to have a good gassing to, with a circuit that is fast and interesting enough to enjoy a good and safe thrash in any sort of car.
Unfortunately I don’t feel this venue will be available in a few years time as it appears that it has been designated to have thousands of houses built on it whatever protestations we make. So you had better get an entry in before its lost to history !